In line with World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendations, nutritionists in the country have reiterated their endorsement on exclusive breastfeeding of babies for the first six months of life, insisting that it is the best and could help to significantly reduce infant mortality.
The nutritionists, led by Professor (Mrs.) Ngozi Nnam, the President of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN) stated this on Tuesday, at a one-day Breastfeeding symposium organised by Promasidor Nigeria Limited, during which the company also introduced two infant milk formulas – Cowbell Tina 1 and Cowbell Tina 2
The theme of the event was “The Nutrition Wisdom of Infant Feeding Choices” and it was held at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos.
According to the Nutritionists, breastfeeding has an extraordinary range of benefits for the child and even for their mothers. They also stated that in circumstances when it becomes impossible for mothers to breastfeed their babies, they could use substitutes which must be readily available and affordable.
The world health body recommends mothers worldwide to exclusively breastfeed infants for the child’s first six months to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, they should be given nutritious complementary foods and continue breastfeeding up to the age of two years or beyond.
Speaking on: “The Nutrition Wisdom of Infant Feeding Choices”, Professor Nnam said Breastfeeding alone (exclusive breastfeeding) is a complete nutritional source for infants for the first six months of life because breast milk contains all the essential nutrients, bio-active compounds and anti-infective factors needed by the infant for the first six months of life.
She warned that insufficiency of nutrients in babies could have significant effect on the brain of babies; which is rapidly developing during infancy. Her words: “Inadequate supply of the nutrients like iron, iodine, magnesium ,Vitamin B12, folate, fat (LC- PUFA) leads to insults in the brain to reduce IQ by 13.5 points. The effect is permanent.”
In his welcome address, Mr. Olivier Thiry, Managing Director, Promasidor said the company produces premium nutritional products that are good for all categories of people. According to him, the products produced by Promasidor contain Vitamins A, Iron and other vital nutrients human bodies need for healthy living.
His words: “We produce different products and they all have appropriate quantity and quality of nutrients required by different classes of people.”
Professor Nnam therefore said Nutrition wisdom is important to ensure adequate supply of nutrients to support rapid growth and development of the infant; prevent malnutrition that could lead to stunting, wasting, underweight and micronutrient deficiency diseases; as well as to protect the infant from developing chronic diseases in adulthood like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.
According to her, the nutrients contained in breast milk are adequate in quantity and quality to promote optimal growth and development of infants. She explained that composition of breast milk has been designed by nature to provide all the nutrient needs of the infant, make for easy digestion and assimilation by infants.
She stated that breast milk is uniquely suited for infants both in nutritional composition and in the non-nutritive bioactive factors that promote survival and health. “Human milk contains water, fat, proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, some hormones, enzymes, growth factors, essential fatty acids and immunological factors that play vital roles for adequate development and growth of the infant”; she said.
Dr. Abieyuwa Emokpae, a Consultant paediatrician and medical doctor at Massey Street Children’s Hospital, corroborated Professor Nnam as he said human milk contains hundreds to thousands of distinct bioactive molecules that protect against infection and inflammation and contribute to immune maturation, organ development and healthy microbial colonization.
Some of the molecules he listed include colostrums, fat, and protein. His words: “Human milk contains a wide variety of proteins that contribute to its unique qualities ranging from growth to antimicrobial effects. It provides adequate amounts of AA to growing infants.”
Similarly, Dr, Ola-Aroyewun Bisoye, a Matron said studies have shown that breasted infants do better on intelligence and behaviour tests into adulthood than formula-fed babies. She advised that continued breastfeeding until the age of two years or more brings the reproductive cycle full cycle because breastfeeding is the primary means of delaying pregnancy and spacing births.
Her words: “As long as a mother breastfeeds fully or nearly and as long as her periods have not returned, her protection against pregnancy during the first six months is ensured. This family planning method is called the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM).”
Meanwhile, Professor Nnam said apart from breastfeeding, mothers could also employ complementary feeding. This, she said, is giving other foods to the infant to complement breast milk. She said: “The child continues to receive breast milk as well as complementary foods, before eventually changing to the family food alone”.
According to her, if there are circumstances when complete breastfeeding is difficult, nursing mothers could deploy infant formula like Tina 1, produced by Promasidor when a baby is still between zero and six months and Tina 2 when a child is between the first six months and two years.
This story was published in Newswatch Times on January 28, 2016.